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The History of the Byzantine Rite of Marriage

Gabriel Radle, Yale University, Fellow 2014–2015

My year at Dumbarton Oaks was dedicated to writing the first monograph on the history of marriage liturgies in Byzantium. I arrived in September after having edited the twenty-eight oldest Greek texts of marriage rites, and having studied an additional fifty such manuscripts from later centuries. At Dumbarton Oaks, I brought this liturgical evidence into dialogue with other sources for marriage, including patristic texts and historical accounts, as well as visual and material evidence. I completed the final versions of two extensive chapters, one dedicated to the earliest evidence for Christian marriage ritual in the eastern Mediterranean world, and the other focused on the nuptial traditions specific to Constantinople. In writing the latter chapter, I enjoyed studying the marriage rings in the Byzantine Collection. During my fellowship, I also worked on advanced drafts of the remaining three chapters, dedicated to marriage rites in the Byzantine East, Southern Italy, and the Balkan Peninsula, respectively.

Some of my most memorable hours at Dumbarton Oaks were spent in lively discussion at the Main House, which served as an intimate home for Byzantine fellows to gather and share their research with one another. Such meetings contributed much to work on my writing back in my library office. They also encouraged regular contact with Mrs. Bliss’s home and the collections contained therein and have thus served as constant reminders of the dignity and privilege I have had to carry out my research in the seventy-five year tradition of Byzantinists at Dumbarton Oaks.